Last week I was in Kansas City to participate in the 9th African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum. AGOA seeks to strengthen the trade relationship between the United States and Africa by reducing tariffs on thousands of African products and providing technical assistance to boost African exports while stimulating economic growth and investment. Each year, the AGOA forum alternates between Washington, D.C. and an African country host. To celebrate AGOA’s tenth year, we decided to do something new, hosting the first half of the forum in Washington, DC and the second portion in Kansas City.
Why Kansas City? While the AGOA legislation eases trade barriers, future success and economic expansion will rely on building agricultural production and rural infrastructure, and the private sector has an important role to play. What better way to promote trade partnerships than to bring African businesses to America’s agricultural heartland? The Kansas City portion of the conference provides special one-on-one networking time where over 100 African and American companies can create partnerships and make trade arrangements. As my colleague, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs William Fitzgerald put it, “The U.S. government will bring them together and then get out of the way and let the free market do the rest.”
Dozens of African ministers are also in Kansas City to learn more about how USDA creates a favorable business climate for farmers and commodity traders, and how land grant universities provide them with valuable research and new technologies. Hopefully, the ministers and businesses can pick up ideas and techniques to realize not only changes in agricultural productivity and reductions in post-harvest loss, but also to learn about processing and marketing opportunities through the development of effective institutions. Check back tomorrow when I’ll tell you about our visit to the Kansas City Board of Trade.